Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Foot Cramping

I got a message through my Ask Doctor Jo YouTube Channel and the person wanted to know what to do about foot cramping. Well, there are several different causes of foot cramping.  It can mean different things if you are getting foot cramping after exercises or increased activities, or if you are getting them without increased activity.

Cramping can be caused by improper footwear, so that would be one of the first things I would look at.  You can ask your doctor or therapist for any suggestions based on your foot type.  Foot cramps can also be caused from dehydration or lack of potassium.  Increasing your electrolytes with any kind of sports drinks or increasing your water intake might also help.

There are also many kinds of prescribed medications now that have cramping as the most common side effect.  Many of the statin drugs (cholesterol medications) can cause cramping or weakness.

In the end, some people are just more prone to cramping than other people.  The foot is made up of muscles, tendons, and fascia that can cause cramping.  Many of the tendons are actually attached to the muscles in your lower leg, so stretching the calf area for bottom of the foot cramping and stretching the anterior tibialis/top muscles for top of the foot cramping is the best place to start.

If you are cramping in your foot, and your toes curl downwards, then please go check out my plantar fasciitis video. Most likely you don’t have plantar fasciitis, but the stretches will help with the muscles in the back of your leg and on the bottom of your foot.

If you are cramping and your toes curl up or flare out, then please go check out my shin splints stretching video. That will help stretch the muscles on the top of the leg and foot.

Shin Splints (Stretching)

Purchase Shin Splints WorksheetIf you frequently get shin splints, here are some simple stretches to help prevent or relieve them. Once you have checked this video out, you can watch the shin splint strengthening video to help keep them strong and prevent further injuries.

Shin splints occur very often in runners who are training for long distance running. The tibialas muscles become inflamed and irritated. Most of the time it is your anterior tibialis muscle, the one in the front, but occasionally they can be your posterior tibialis muscle, the one in the back. Make sure to go to a doctor to get evaluated because sometimes you can have a stress fracture instead of shin splints.

Start off by sitting in a long sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Point your toes downward as far as you comfortably can. You can add a little pressure to get an extra stretch. For more of a stretch, roll over and flatten your feet in a push up position, and push up on the top of your feet. Then you can try kneeling back onto your feet with your toenails on the floor, and lift up onto your toes as seen in the video.

Now you will see some stretches with a noodle or foam roll. Place the roll on the top of your knee, and roll it down your shin or anterior tibialis. Apply more body pressure to get more of a stretch. Then you can turn over and do the same thing with your calf. Roll down your calf muscle, or gastrocnemius muscle, and apply more body pressure for more of a stretch.

 

Shin Splints (Strengthening)

Buy Shin Splints WorksheetThe key to preventing shin splints is to strengthen your muscles. Check out the stretching video for shin splints first, and then check out this video to keep the lower leg muscles strong to prevent them from happening again.

Start off my propping your ankle up or hang your foot off the bed or table so your heel doesn't touch the floor. Put the band around the ball of your foot for good resistance. First, push your foot down and up. This is called ankle plantarflexion. The next exercise will be standing. Rise up on your toes, and then rock back onto your heels. Hold onto something to start with to keep your balance.

Then you can add some dynamic movement with it, and try walking on your toes and then on your heels. Now you are going to drag your toe forward to strengthen the anterior tibilias muscle. Finally, you can use a step to get extra motion. Put the ball of your foot on the edge of the step, and drop your heel down as far as you can. Then push up as far as you can. If that becomes easy, try one foot at a time. 

 

Back Strengthening Exercises with Swiss Ball

Purchase Basic Swiss Ball WorksheetThis video will show you some back strengthening exercises with a Swiss ball. Many different things can cause back pain. You can get back strains or sprains, and it can even be more severe like a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. You might even be diagnosed with big scary words like spondylosis or spondylolisthesis. It is very important to have good posture while performing these exercises. The Swiss ball or therapy ball is a great way to work your core muscle and gain good trunk stability. It doesn't take much to get a good workout on one of these!  Make sure you are holding your abdominal muscles in or contracting them while you are exercising, or you might fall off the ball. Sitting on it with good posture is a workout in itself.

The first exercises are going to be doing a series of pelvic tilts. You want to make sure you are moving just at your hips. If you upper body is moving, you are not doing it right. Have your feet about shoulder width apart, and make sure your knees and hips are bent at about 90 degrees. You can hold onto the ball for balance to start or put the ball against a wall. First you will just rotate your hips front to back, or anterior to posterior. Then you will do the tilts from side to side, or lateral tilts. Finally, you will rotate them around in circles, or a hula-hoop motion. Make sure to do each direction. You can start out with just 10 to 15 of each of these. They will feel easy when you do them, but make sure not to overdo it because you won't feel the soreness until later.

Next you are going to do some combination moves. Now you are going to gently lift one foot off the ground, or a hip flexion movement. Try not to go fast, the Swiss ball is about balance and control, and if you go fast, you lose the benefits of it. Alternate your feet about 10 times on each side. Next you are going to kick your leg out, or a knee extension movement. If those become easy, you can add your arms into the exercises to make it harder. First try lifting your opposite arm with your leg, alternating back and forth. Then try lifting the same side arm and leg together for increased difficulty. Finally, you can lie down on the ball with your knees bent, and then lift your knees as seen in the video.

 

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